All Quiet on the Western Front


Plot Summary

All Quiet on the Western Front is told from the point of view of Paul Bäumer, a young soldier of 19. Paul and many of his friends were convinced to join the army because of Kantorek, who was their teacher. Kantorek glorified war for the boys, but they soon realize that the allegiance and patriotism bring them nothing but death and destruction. Paul and his comrades join the Second Company, and their training consists of brutal treatment from Himmelstoss, a brutal corporal. Himmelstoss seems more concerned with breaking his trainees than with the patriotism that Kantorek promised the boys.

Although this is Paul’s story, the plot could apply to any soldier during World War I. The horror of war—both on individuals and society—is the focus of the story. Even though he is still a teenager, Paul has wisdom that far surpasses his youthful body. The book is permeated with Paul’s sadness and sense of loss. He has never known a life outside of battle.

After two weeks of combat, the Second Company receives two weeks of rest. Paul is saddened that only 80 of the original 150 men survive the battle. Even though many men have died, the cook does not want to allow the men to eat the extra rations. However, the cook eventually acquiesces and gives the men the extra food. The men visit Kemmerich, a former classmate, who is dying. Another classmate, Müller, wants Kemmerich’s boots. Although desiring the boots might seem insensitive to civilians, Paul knows that Müller is just being practical. Because he is dying, Kemmerich will have no use for the boots. If no one wears them, they will be wasted. Before he dies, Kemmerich tells Paul that Müller should have the boots.

When new recruits show up, Paul realizes how replaceable the men are. He and his comrades discuss war; Kat believes that if all men were paid the same and given the same meals, the war would immediately cease. Another of Paul’s classmates, Kropp, believes that armies should not exist at all. Instead, they should fight gladiator-style battles...

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